It couldn't happen to a nicer guy

Friday, February 5, 2010

As I write this, it's unclear if there will even be any Putnam County high school basketball played tonight. (I'm betting no.)

All the same, if we get hoops action, then I'll be headed for Speedway High School to see the Cloverdale boys battle the host Sparkplugs. With a victory, the Clovers will clinch a share of the West Central Conference crown.

Even bigger, though, will be a milestone for Hall of Fame coach Pat Rady. With the win, Pat would become only the fourth coach in the history of Indiana high school basketball to win 700 games. It's a truly remarkable accomplishment, and it couldn't happen to more of a class act than Pat.

Now, I can't tell many of my readers here in Putnam County much about Pat they don't already know. His ties to Roachdale, Bainbridge and Cloverdale make many of you more familiar with his work than I could ever be.

All the same, though, I've had the chance to get to know the man over the last few years, and it's been a joy. While I've never worked with another coach nearly as accomplished as Pat, I've also met very few nearly as humble as he is.

If you ask him what the key to his success is, he'll generally tell you he's been blessed -- blessed with good players, blessed with good administrators, blessed with a wife and sons who didn't mind the long hours of coaching, blessed with the good health to do it for so long.

The answer always reflects what others have done to get Pat Rady where he is today, not what Pat Rady has done to get himself there.

Then again, if you read any postgame interview with Rady and his attitude toward his success is no surprise. He takes the same stance about the success of his individual players.

Over and over again, he will say it was a good "team win" or the Clovers played good "team defense." He doesn't talk individual performances. PERIOD. A lot of coaches like to talk the team game, but who else takes it that far?

Two winters ago, I covered a game in which the Clovers' Craig Blair poured in 41 points. If ever Pat was going to talk about an individual, it was this night.

This is as close as he came: "I don't like to talk about individuals, but I told that individual after the game, about the points he had, 'You have some fine teammates who got the ball to you.' He also had some fine assists as well."

I could only laugh. Now that's sticking to your guns.

Something else I have to love about Pat is his effect on other people. He genuinely cares about the people coaching has brought into his life.

On my very first day on the job as Banner Graphic sports editor, I had the chance to meet the athletic directors. When I met Pat and told him my fiancée was an Evens, I found an instant friend.

"You're marrying into a good family," he said.

In his Bainbridge coaching days (some 40 years earlier), Pat had worked for my wife's grandpa Norman, who was the principal, and coached her two uncles, Dick Evens and Dick McFarland.

All these years later, he still had an affinity for the family and everyone from that era. I've enjoyed the good graces of that ever since.

Perhaps the most special thing about Pat is the way he draws you in and gets you rooting for him. I often get the chance, after the recorder is turned off, to stand and talk to coaches after the game. We talk about the game, about other teams, about life.

It seems, though, the talk often turns to Pat. It's amazing that in such a competitive group of people, I rarely sense any sort of rivalry with him. Instead, the younger coaches seem to love playing against him, talking to him before the games and especially love it if he compliments their team or coaching style.

I get the feeling that when they're not coaching against him, they're all quietly Rady fans, just like the rest of us.

And me? In the time I've known Pat, he's captured exactly 27 of his 699 wins. I've literally been around for 3.8 percent of them, and what I do has in no way contributed to even one of those wins.

Yet I feel a part of it. I feel special just for having been around, observing this giant in the high school basketball world. I can't help it. This is a guy you can't help but root for.

Pat Rady may have been blessed by all the people who've been around him, but we've all been blessed to be around him.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: